Downtown apartments fetch high rents, particularly when multiple potential tenants are considering the same unit. Downtown apartments, however, are also susceptible to city noise -- which may turn off some potential tenants. If you have an apartment downtown for rent, install double-pane replacement windows to reduce how much noise enters the apartment and make it more attractive to potential tenants. You might be able to get multiple people interested in the place and ask for a higher monthly rent.
STC Ratings Are Objective
The STC rating system is an objective method of measuring a building material's noise insulation. Almost every building material, from ceiling tiles and front doors to floors and windows, has an official STC rating. The higher a material's rating is, the better it insulates against sound.
The scale used for STC ratings is exponential, so a moderate increase in rating can yield significantly better sound protection. According to one list, an increase in ratings of
- 2 isn't noticeable
- 4 is "clearly perceptible"
- 10 cuts noise levels in half
As you look at replacement windows, the window installation company you're working with should be able to provide the STC ratings for the windows they carry.
Single-Pane Windows Are Poor Insulators
Single-pane windows, which are often used in apartments because they're cheap, have extremely low STC ratings. Typical single-pane windows have ratings between 24 and 26, which means normal speech can be clearly understood on the other side of them. In a downtown location, noises from car horns, sirens and even trams will go through single-pane windows virtually uninhibited.
Double-Pane Replacement Windows Are Effective
Double-pane replacement windows provide significantly better sound insulation than single-pane windows. At ¼- to 1-inch thick, the glass in double-pane replacement windows is thick enough to provide better insulation, and there is a layer of argon between the pieces of glass that further enhances double-pane windows' noise insulation. When sound waves travel through the glass and argon, the different densities of the materials disrupt the waves so that fewer get through the window.
Double-pane windows, or double-glazed windows, often have STC ratings of 31 to 33. Higher-quality double-pane replacement windows that are made with laminated glass can have ratings as high as 38 -- which is comparable to an exterior wall's STC rating, which is usually around 36.
Triple-Pane Windows Aren't as Effective
Counterintuitively, triple-pane windows actually provide less noise insulation than double-pane windows. Because they have smaller air gaps and sometimes thinner glass than double-pane windows, sound waves can travel through the materials more easily. There are two additional layers in triple-pane windows, but they often aren't thick enough to be beneficial for sound insulation. Although triple-pane windows sometimes cost more than double-pane ones, triple-pane windows aren't as effective or as good a choice.
Soundproof Windows Are Expensive
Soundproof windows provide the best noise insulation of any window, blocking out between 90 and 95 percent of noise. These windows, however, are too expensive for most landlords to install. Even if you can afford them, you likely won't see a full return on your investment if you buy soundproof replacement windows. Their price will be greater than any increase in rent that you might get. Double-pane replacement windows are a much more affordable option, and an effective one.
If you have a downtown apartment and want to maximize how much rent it commands, consider replacing any single-pane windows in the unit with double-pane replacement windows. They're affordable and will block out a significant amount of street noise. If your apartment is in a desirable area, you should be able to attract more tenants once the noise-reducing windows are in -- and get more in rent. Over time, you'll recoup your investment in replacement windows -- and even make more money.